Charles James Lever.

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At last came my name, and as I heard it shouted aloud it
almost choked me with a nervous fulness in the throat. I
felt as though I was the greatest criminal in the universe,
and that the whole vast assemblage had no other object or
aim there than to see me arraigned for my offence.

I was scarcely ordered to advance before I was desired to
stand back again, the, prosecutor, Captain de Courcy, not
being in court. While a policeman was, therefore, despatched
by the magistrate to request that he would have the kindness
to appear, for the captain was an honourable and an aide-de-
camp, titles which the sitting justice knew well how to re-
spect, other cases were called and disposed of. It was nigh
three o'clock, when a great bustle in the outer court, and a
tremendous falling back of the dense crowd, accompanied by
an ostentatious display of police zeal, heralded a group of
officers, who, with gingling spurs and banging sabretashes,
made their way to the bench, and took their seats beside the
justice. Many were the courtesies interchanged between the
magistrate and the captain ; one, averring that the delay was
not in the slightest degree inconvenient ; the other, profess-
ing the greatest deference for the rules of court; neither
bestowing a thought upon him most deeply concerned of all.

A very brief narrative, delivered by the captain with a
most military abruptiaess, detailed my offence ; and, although
not exaggerated in the slightest degree, the occasional inter-
ruptions of the magistrate served very considerably to magnify
its guilt such as "Dear me! a favourite mare a pure Arab
a present from your noble father, Lord Littlemore infamous
treatment abominable case abandoned young scoundrel ! "
and so on ; closing with the accustomed peroration of regret
that, as hanging was now done away with, he feared that the
recorder could only award me a transportation for life !

"Have you anything to say, sirrah?" said he at last,
turning towards me ; " or would you rather reserve your
observations for another time ? as I shall certainly commit
you for trial at the commission."

" I have only to suggest," said I, with an air of most in-
solent composure, " that you are probably mistaken in your
law. The offence with which I stand charged amounts, at
most, to the minor one of breach of trust."

" What ! have we got a lawyer in the dock ? " said the
magistrate, reddening with fear and anger together.



58 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CIIEGAN.

" I have enjoyed some opportunities of legal study, your
worship," said I, " and am happy to state that my opinion,
in the present instance, will not discredit the assertion. The
case stands thus : I am employed by the Honourable Captain
de Courcy to perform a particular duty, which is of the dis-
tinct nature of a trust ; that trust, whose importance I do not
seek to extenuate in the slightest, I fail in. I. will not plead
the strong temptation of a race and a great spectacle. I will
not allege, as perhaps I might, the example of my companions,
then revelling in all the pleasures of the day. I will simply
say that no one fact can be adduced to favour the suspicion
of a meditated robbery ; and that my conduct, so palpably
open and public, rejects the least assumption of the kind, and
at the utmost can establish nothing beyond what I am willing
to plead guilty to a breach of trust."

" Listen to the Attorney- General ! By the hokey, it's him-
self they've in the dock ! " said one.

" That's the chap can give them chapter and varse ! " cried
another.

" Silence there ! Keep silence in the court ! " said the
justice, now really warm with passion. " I'd have you to
know, sirrah," said he, addressing me, " that your pettifogging
shrewdness is anything but favourable to you in the unfor-
tunate position in which you stand. I shall commit 3-011 for
trial, and would advise you it is the only piece of advice
I'll trouble you with to charge some more skilful advocate
with your defence, and not entrust it to the knavish flippancy
of conceit and chicanery."

" I mean to have counsel, your worship," said I, resolutely;
for my blood was up, and I would have argued with the twelve
judges. " I mean to have one of the first and most eminent
at the bar for my defence. Mr. Mansergh, of Merrion Square,
will not refuse my brief when he sees the fee I can offer
him."

A regular roar of laughter filled the court ; the impudence
of my speech, and my thus introducing the name of one of
the very first men at the bar, as likely to concern himself for
such a miserable case and object, was too much for any
gravity; and when the magistrate turned to comment upon
my unparalleled assurance and impertinence to Captain de
Courcy, he discovered that the honourable captain had left
his place.

Such was the fact! The dashing aide-de-camp was, at
that moment, standing in earnest converse with myself, be-
side the dock.



A BOLD STROKE FOR AN OPENING IN THE WORLD. 5&

" May I speak with this boy in another room, your wor-
ship ? " said he, addressing the court.

" Certainly, Captain de Courcy ! Serjeant Biles, show
Captain de Courcy into my robing-room."

The honourable captain did not regain, his composure
immediately on finding himself alone with me ; on the con-
trary, his agitation was such, that he made two or three
efforts before he could utter the few words with which he
first addressed me.

" What did you mean by saying that Mr. Mansergh would
defend you? and what was the fee you alluded to ?" were
the words.

" Just what I said, sir ! " said I, with the steady assurance
a confidence of victory gives. " I thought it was better to
have able counsel, and as I know I have the means of recom-
pensing him, the opportunity was lucky."

" You don't pretend that you could afford to engage one
like him, my lad ?" said he, affecting, but very poorly, an air
of easy composure. " What could you give him ? "

" A note, sir ; and although it never issued from the Bank,
one not without value ! "

The captain became deadly pale ; he made one step to-
wards the door, and in a low voice of ill-restrained anger
said, " I'll have you searched, sirrah ! If anything belong-
ing to me is found upon you "

"No fear, sir," said I, composedly; "I have taken pre-
cautions against that ; the note is safe ! "

He threw himself upon a chair, and stared at me steadily
for some minutes without a word. There we were, each
scanning the other, and inwardly calculating how to win the
game we were playing.

" Well ! " said he, at last ; " what are your terms ? You
see I give in."

"And so best," said I ; "it saves time. I ask very little
from your honour ; nothing more, in fact, than to have this
charge dismissed. I don't mean to wear rags all my life,
and consort with vagabonds, and so I dislike to have it said
hereafter that I was ever arraigned or committed for an
offence like this. You must tell the justice that it was some
blunder or mistake of your orders to me ; some accidental
circumstance or other : I don't much care what, or how, nor
will he, if the explanation comes from you! This done, I'll
place the note in your hand within half an hour, and we need
never see much more of each other."

" But who is to secure me that you keep your promise ? "



60 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREGAN.

" Yon must trust to me," said I, carelessly ; " I have no
bail to give."

" Why not return now with the policeman, for the note,
before I speak to the justice? "

" Then who is to go bail for you f " said I, smiling.

" You are a cool fellow, by Jove ! " cried he, at the steady
impudence which I maintained in the discussion.

" I had need be," replied I, in a voice very different from
the feigned hardihood of my assumed part. " The boy, who
has neither a home, nor a friend in the world, has little else
to rely on save the cold recklessness of what may befall him ! "

I saw a curl of contempt upon the captain's lip at the
energy of this speech ; for now, when, for the first time be-
tween us, a single genuine sentiment broke from me, he
deemed it " cant."

" Well ! " cried he, " as you wish ; I'll speak to the justice,
and you shall be free."

He left the room as he spoke, but in a few moments re-
entered it saying, " All is right ! You are discharged ! Now
for your share of the bargain."

" Where will your honour be in half an hour ? "

"At the Club, Foster Place."

" Then I'll be there with the note," said T.

He nodded, and walked out. I watched him as he went ;
but he neither spoke to a policeman, nor did he turn his head
round to see what became of me. There was something in
this that actually awed me. It was a trait so unlike anything
I had ever seen in others, that I at once perceived it was " the
gentleman's " spirit enabling him to feel confidence even in
a poor ragged street wanderer as I was. The lesson was not
lost on me. My life has been mainly an imitative one, and I
have more than once seen the inestimable value of " trusting."

No sooner was I at large than I speeded to Betty's, and
was back again long before the half-hour expired. I had to
wait till near five, however, before he appeared ; so sure was
he of my keeping my word, that he never troubled himself
about me ! " Ha ! " said he, as he saw me ; " long here ? "

" Yes, sir, about an hour ; " and I handed him the note as
I spoke.

He thrust it carelessly into his sabretash, and pulling out a
crown piece, chucked it towards me, saying, " Good-bye,
friend; if they don't hang you, you'll make some noise in
the world yet."

" I mean it, sir," said I, with a familiar nod ; and so
genteelly touching my cap in salute, I walked away.



61



CHAPTER VIII.
"A QUIET CHOP" AT "KILLEEN'S," AND A GLANCE AT A NEW CHARACTER.

I LOOKED very wistfully at my broad crown piece, as it lay
with its honest platter face in the palm of my hand, and felt
by the stirring sensations it excited within me, some inklings
of his feelings who possesses hundreds of thousands of them.
Then there arose in my mind the grave question how it was
to be spent ; and such a strange connection is there between
what economists call supply and demand, that, in place of
being, as I esteemed myself a few minutes back, " passing
rich," I at once perceived that I was exceeding poor, since to
effect any important change in my condition, five shillings was
a most inadequate sum. It would not buy me more than a
pair of shoes ; and what use in repairing the foundation of
the edifice when the roof was in ruin ! not to speak of my
other garments, to get into which, each morning, by the same
apertures as before, was a feat that might have puzzled a
harlequin.

I next bethought me of giving an entertainment to my
brethren at Betty's ; but, after all, they had shown little
sympathy with me in my late misfortune, and seemed rather
pleased to be rid of a dangerous professional rival. This,
and a lurking desire to leave the fraternity, decided me
against this plan.

Then came the thought of entertaining myself, giving
myself a species of congratulatory dinner on my escape ;
and, in fact, commemorating the event by anticipating the
most fashionable mode now in use.

I canvassed the notion, with all the skill and fairness I
could summon, starting the various objections against it, and
answering them with what seemed to myself a most judicial
impartiality.

"Who does a man usually entertain," said I, "but his
intimate friends?" Those whose agreeability is pleasing to
liim, or whose acquaintance is valuable from their station and
influence. Now, with Avhom had I such an unrestrained
and cordial intercourse as myself? Whose society never
wearied ? whose companionship always interested me ?
iny own ! and who, of all the persons I had ever met with



62 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREGAN.

conceived a sincere and heartfelt desire for my welfare, pre-
ferring it to all others ? " Con Cregan, it is you," said I,
enthusiastically. " In you my confidence is complete. I be-
lieve you incapable of ever forgetting me ; come, then, and
let us pledge our friendship over a flowing bowl."

Where, too, was the next doubt ? With a crown to spend,
I was not going to descend to seme subterranean den among
coal-heavers, newsvenders, and umbrella hawkers ; but how
was I to gain access to a better-class ordinary that was the
difficulty who would admit the street-runner in his rags,
into even a brief intimacy with his silver forks and spoons ;
and it was precisely to an entertainment on such a scale as a
good tavern could supply that I aspired. It was to test my
own feelings under a new stimulant. Just as I have often
since seen grave people experiment upon themselves with
laughing gas, and magnetism, and the fumes of ether.

" It may be too much for you, Con/' said I, as I went along;
" there's no knowing what effect it may have on your nerves."

" Remember that your system is not attuned to such varia-
tions. Tour vagaries may prove extravagant, and the too
sudden elevation may disturb your naturally correct judg-
ment." Against these doubts I pleaded the necessity of not
being ungrateful to myself not refusing a very proper ac-
knowledgment of my own skill and astuteness ; and, lastly,
I suggested a glancing kind of hope, that, like those famed
heroes who dated their great fortune to having gone to sleep
beneath the shadow of some charmed tree, or near the ripple
of a magic fountain, that I, too, should arise from this
banquet with some brilliant view of life, and see the path to
success, bright and clear before me, through the hazy mists
of fancy.

As I reasoned thus, I passed various ordinaries, stopping
with a kind of instinct at each, to gaze at the luscious rounds
of beef, so daintily tricked out with sprigs of parsley the
appetizing cold sirloins, so beautifully stratified with fat and
lean with hams that might tempt a rabbi not to speak of
certain provocative little paragraphs, about " Ox-tail and
Gravy ready at all hours." " Queer world it is," said I ;
" and there are passing at every instant, by tens and twenties,
men, and women, and children, famishing and hungry, who
see all these things separated from them by a pane of window
glass ; and yet, they only gather their rags more closely
together clench their thin lips tighter, and move on. Not
that alone ; but here am I, with means to buy what I want,
and yet, I must not venture to cross that threshold, as though



" A QUIET CHOP " AT " KILLEEN'S." 63

my rags should be an insult to their broadcloth." " Move on,
youngster," quoth a policeman at this moment, and thus
put an end to my soliloquy.

Wearied with rambling, and almost despairing of myself, I
was about to cross Carlisle Bridge, when the blazing effulgence
of a great ruby-coloured lamplight attracted my attention,
over which, in bright letters, ran the words, " Killeen's Tavern
and Chop House," and beneath, " Steak, potatoes, and a
pint of stout, one shilling and fourpence." Armed with a
bold thought, I tui-ned and approached the house. Two or
three waiters, in white aprons, were standing at the door,
and showed little inclination, to make way for me as I
advanced.

" Well ! " cried one, " who are you ? Nobody sent for you."

" Tramp, my smart fellow," said the other, " this an't your
shop."

"Isn't this Killeen's?" said I, stoutly.

"Just so," said the first, a little surprised at my coolness.

" Well, then, a young gentleman from the college sent me
to order dinner for him at once, and pay for it at the same
time."

" What will he have ? "

" Soup, and a steak, with a pint of port," said I ; just the
kind of dinner I had often heard the old half-pay officers
talking of at the door of the Club in Foster Place.

" What hour did he say ? "

"This instant. He's coming down; and, as he s'iarts by
the mail at seven, he told me to have it on the table when he
came."

" All right ; four-and-six," said the waiter, holding out his
hand for the money.

I gave him my crown piece, and as he fumbled for the
sixpence I insinuated myself quietly into the hall.

" There's your change, boy," said the waiter ; "you needn't
stop."

" Will you be so good, sir," said I, " to write ' paid ' on a
slip of paper for me, just to show the gentleman ? "

" Of course," said he, taken possibly by the nattering
civility of my address, and he stepped into the bar, and soon
reappeared with a small scrap of paper, with these words :
" Dinner and a pint of port, 4s. Qd. paid."

" I'm to wait for him here, sir," said I, most obsequiously

"Very well, so you can," replied he, passing on to the
coffee-room.

I peeped through the glass door, and saw that in one of



64 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREGAN.

the little boxes into which the place was divided, a table was
just spread, and a soup-tureen and a decanter placed on it.
"This," thought I, "is for me;" for, all the other boxes
were already occupied, and a great buzz of voices and clash-
ing of plates and knives going on together.

" Serve the steak, sir," said I, stepping into the room and
addressing the head- waiter, who, with a curse to me to " get
out of that," passed on to order the dish ; while I, with an
adroit flank movement, dived into the box, and, imitating
some of the company, spread my napkin like a breastplate
across me. By a great piece of fortune, the stall was the
darkest in the room, so that when seated in a cornei', with an
open newspaper before me, I could, for a time at least, hope
to escape detection.

" Anything else, sir ? " cried a waiter, as he uncovered the
soup, and deposited the dish of smoking beefsteak.

"Nothing," responded I, with a voice of most imposing
sternness, and manfully holding up the newspaper between us.

The first three or four mouthfuls I ate with a faint heart ;
the fear of discovery, exposure, and expulsion, almost choked
me. A glass of port rallied, a second one cheered, and a
third emboldened me, and I proceeded to my steak in a spirit
of true ease and enjoyment. The port was most insidious;
place it wherever I would on the table, it invariably stole
over beside me, and in spite of me, as it were, the decanter
would stand at my elbow. I suppose it must be in reality a
very gentlemanlike tipple ; the tone of sturdy self-reliance,
the vigorous air of command, the sense of absolutism it
inspires, smack of Toryism ; and as I sipped, I felt myself
rising above the low prejudices I once indulged in against
rank and wealth, and insensibly comprehending the beauty of
that system which divides and classifies mankind.

The very air of the place, the loud, overbearing talk, the
haughty summons to the waiter, the imperious demand for
this or that requisite of the table, all conspired to impress
me with the pleasant sensation imparted to him who possesses
money. Among the various things called for on every side
I remarked that mustard seemed in the very highest request.
Every one ate of it ; none seemed to have enough of it.
There was a perpetual cry, " Mustard ! I say, waiter, bring
me the mustard ; " while one very choleric old gentleman, in
a drab surtout and a red nose, absolutely seemed bursting
with indignation, as he said, " You don't expect me to eat a
steak without mustard, sir? " a rebuke at which the waiter
grew actually purple.



"A QUIET CHOP" AT " KILLEEN'S." 65

N"ow this was the very thing I had myself been doing,
actually eating " a steak without mustard ! " what a mistake,
and for one who believed himself to be in every respect
conforming to the choicest usages of high life ! What was
to be done ? the steak had disappeared : no matter, it was
never too late to learn, and so I cried out, '' Waiter ! the
mustard here ! " in a voice that almost electrified the whole
room.

I had scarcely concealed myself beneath my curtain The
Times, when the mustard was set down before me, with a
humble apology for forgetfulness. I waited till he withdrew,
and then helping myself to the unknown delicacy, proceeded
to eat it, as the phrase is, " neat." In my eagerness I
swallowed two or three mouthfuls before I felt its effects, and
then, a sensation of burning and choking seized upon me.
My tongue seemed to swell to thrice its size ; my eyes felt as
if they would drop out of my head ; while a tingling sensa-
tion, like " frying," in my nostrils, almost drove me mad ; so
that after three or four seconds of silent agony, during which
I experienced about ten tears of torture ; unable to endure
more, I screamed out that " I was poisoned," and with
wide-open mouth, and staring eyes, ran down the coffee-
room.

Never was seen such an uproar ! had an animal from a
wild-beast menagerie appeared among the company, the con-
sternation could scarce be greater; and in the mingled
laughter and execrations, might be traced the different moods
of those who resented my intrusion. " Who is this fellow ?
.how did he get in ? what brought him here ? what's the
matter with him?" poured in on all sides; difficulties the
head waiter thought it better to deal with by a speedy expul-
sion than by any lengthened explanation.

"Get a policeman, Bob!" said he to the next in com-
mand ; and the order was given loud enough to be heard
by me.

" What the devil threw him amongst us ? " said a testy-
looking man in green spectacles.

" I came to dine, sir," said I; "to have my steak and my
pint of wine, as I hoped, in comfort, and as one might have
it in a respectable tavern."

A jolly burst of laughter stopped me, and I was obliged
to wait for its subsidence to continue.

" Well, sir ! I paid for my dinner "

"Is that true, Sam? " said a shrewd-looking man to tho
waiter.

F



G6 THE CONFESSIONS OP CON CHEGAN-.

" Quito true, sir ! he paid four-and- sixpence, saying that
tlie dinner was for a College gentleman."

" I have been in College," said I, coolly ; " but no matter,
the thing is simple enough ; I am here, in a house of public
entertainment, the proprietors of which have accepted my
money for a specific purpose ; and putting aside the question
whether they can refuse admission to any well-conducted in-
dividual, (see Barnes versus MacTivell, in the 8th volume
Term Reports ; and Hobbes against Blinkerton, Soaker, and
others, in the Appendix,) I contend that my presence here is
founded upon contract."

Another and still louder roar of mirth again stopped me,
and before I could resume, the company had gathered round
me in evident delight at my legal knowledge ; and in par-
ticular, he of the spectacles, who was a well-known attorney
of the Court of Conscience.

" That fellow's a gem ! " said he. " Hang me if he's not
equal to Bleatem ! Sam, take care what you do ; he's the
chap to have his action against you ! I say, my man, come
and sit down here, and let us have a little chat together."

"Most willingly, sir," responded I. "Waiter, bring my
wine over to this table." This was the signal for another
shout, of which I did not deign to take the slightest notice.

" I'll wager a hundred oysters," exclaimed one of the party
among whom I now seated myself, " that I have seen him
before ! Tell me, my lad, didn't you ride over the course
yesterday, and cut out the work for Mr. Beatagh ? "

I bowed an assent. " Who the devil is he ? " cried two or
three together ; and my appearance and manner did not check
the audible expression of this sentiment.

"A few words will suffice, gentlemen," said I, "on that
head. My father was an estated gentleman, of small, but
tinincumbered fortune, which he lost by an unfortunate specu-
lation ; he accordingly went abroad "

" To Norfolk Island ! " suggested one, with a wink.

" Exactly," responded I ; "a Colonial appointment ; leaving
me, like Norval, not exactly on the Grampian Hills, but in a-
worse place, in the middle of the bog of Allen ; my sole
dependence being in certain legal studies I had once made,
and a natural taste for getting forward in life ; which, with a
most enthusiastic appreciation of good company" here I
bowed politely all round " are, I flatter myself, my chief
characteristics."

After a little, but most good-humoured, quizzing about my
present occupation and future prospects, they, with far more



"A QUIET CHOP" AT " KILLEEN'S." 67

politeness than might be expected, turned the conversation
upon other matters, and kindly permitted me to throw in
from time to time my observations ; remarks which I could
see, from their novelty at least, seemed often to surprise
them.

At length the hour of separating arrived, and I arose to bid
the company good night, which I performed with a very fair
imitation of that quiet ease I had often studied in the young



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 5) → online text (page 7 of 50)